Deputies investigate possible hate crime, arson

CLAYTON Flames ripped through the couple's house located on New Castle Court early Friday morning.

A neighbor who didn't want to be identified said the couple had been harassed at their residence before.

Fortunately, the two were out-of-town when the fire broke out on Friday. A nearby neighbor called authorities after seeing the flames.

Investigators are still trying to determine if the blaze was a hate-crime.

Several of the neighbors in their subdivision are worried about how and why the fire started.

"No doubt about it, I'm concerned-it's one of those things you don't see every day," Neighbor Mark Marney said.

"Nice people in the neighborhood, [you] don't suspect anybody of hating anybody like that," Neighbor Kivet Roseboro said. "Very nice neighborhood, people speak to each other, very surprising to hear about a fire in the neighborhood, "he said.

Johnston County Investigators say whoever started the blaze also stole two lawn mowers from the home in the days before. Authorities also believe the suspect may be driving a white Chevrolet pick-up truck.

Anyone with information on a white Chevrolet S-10 pick-up towing a trailer, hauling two lawn mowers is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

The couple is staying in a nearby motel and getting help from the Red Cross. Their neighbors have also put together a donation fund to help them re-build.

Authorities say they do not believe the fire is connected to a string of arson fires in Johnston County.

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